Klitschko retires – what next for Anthony Joshua?

By: Thomas Nicholls

Anthony Joshua’s much anticipated rematch with Wladimir Klitschko is OFF as the legendary Ukrainian has called time on a prestigious 64-fight career.

Since winning a gold medal at the Atlanta Olympic games in 1996, Klitschko has established himself as one of the all-time Heavyweight greats.

Retiring with an admirable record of 53 KO wins in 64 bouts, Klitschko burst onto the heavyweight scene with older brother Vitali in the mid to late 90’s, bulldozing his way through his first 24 opponents before a shock defeat against much unfancied Ross Purity in Wladimir’s hometown of Kiev in December 1998.

Amidst the renaissance for Klitschko, he captured his first world title in October 2000, beating America’s Chris Byrd via Unanimous Decision. Klitschko set his sights on unifying the division and was on course to fulfill his ambition until another shock defeat to South Africa’s Corrie Sanders. Another rebuilding process was underway yet just three fights later he was stopped once more, this time it was Lamon Brewster who had Klitschko on the canvas. A career which held such promise was in turmoil. Klitschko was at his lowest ebb.

It was back to drawing board for “Dr Steelhammer”, under the tutorship of the late Emanuel Steward and they had found the winning formula. A much lamented “Jab & Grab” style, as effectively crafted as it was uneasy on the eye, Klitschko was formidable.

By 2010, Klitschko’s resurgence had seen him capture the IBO, IBF & WBO versions of the Heavyweight crown, pummeling his way through Tony Thompson, Ruslan Chagaev and Samuel Peter in the process. Up next was WBA belt holder David Haye, Hamburg was the venue and many had tipped the Londoner to expose the vulnerability of Klitschko’s chin. For all of Haye’s promotion and promise, he failed to land a glove on the champion.

Klitschko had conquered the Heavyweight division, he would defend his four world titles against Wach, Povetkin & Pulev in spectacular fashion before being outfoxed by a gamely Tyson Fury.

As Klitschko seeked redemption and in what was his final fight, he captured the admiration of the millions that had their focus on Wembley Stadium in April 2017. Klitschko engaged in a titanic battle with “little bro” Anthony Joshua, sending the Brit to the canvas with a huge right hand in the sixth round. Joshua, with youth on his side, had showed exceptional powers of recovery and seeked and destroyed a tiring Klitschko in round 11. Klitschko, at 41, showed wonderful heart and courage to rise from the canvas twice to fight on, but his time was up.

Klitschko’s retirement spells the end of a remarkable career and of course the possibility of a rematch with Joshua, who is now seeking his next opponent.

Yesterday, the WBA ordered Anthony Joshua to defend his WBA heavyweight title against mandatory challenger, Luis Ortiz.

The governing body released a statement telling both parties they have 30 days to come to an agreement, or the fight will go to purse bids.

IBF mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev seemed set to fight “AJ”, but the WBA had previously confirmed in January that Ortiz would face the Wembley winner.

Eddie Hearn has recently spoke of his desire to take the Joshua roadshow to the states, as a fight with Deontay Wilder gathers momentum, besides the “Bronze Bomber” there isn’t a host of stand-out candidates that have the ability to dethrone the British champ.

Other prospects that will have Joshua in their sights are of course Dillian Whyte, the winner of Parker vs Fury and Jarrell Miller – it’s hard to see Joshua being dethroned any time soon.

Joshua has the heavyweight division at his mercy, as did Klitschko for many years, the torch has been passed and Joshua is the new era.

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